Although the San Diego Padres started Joe Musgrove in Game 4 of the 2022 National League Division Series, manager Dave Roberts opted not to include Cody Bellinger or Joey Gallo in the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup.
The decision went against conventional wisdom and broke the platoon the Dodgers utilized throughout much of the regular season, but Roberts felt Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor were better options Musgrove.
“I just felt that Cody hasn’t had a lot of success against Musgrove and a good sample,” Roberts said before the game. “Joe has had a lot more success versus left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, and there’s a lot of spin. I just feel that tonight to win one game, I felt that Trayce and Chris just had a better chance.
“Obviously, Cody wants to be in there, but this is a decision that I had to make. I chose to make.”
The decision to start the right-handed hitters against a right-handed pitcher caught Bellinger off guard, and he was not happy upon hearing the news. “He was upset,” Roberts relayed.
“He wanted to be in there. He expected to be in there. All year long I’ve played him against right-handed pitching, and he wanted to be in there. But he also said he’ll be ready for whatever we need.”
Since winning the 2019 NL MVP Award, Bellinger has not produced at levels within the realm of what he once showed he was capable off, and that continued into this season.
Some of the dip in production can be attributed to his injury history, but regardless, it has been a near-unprecedented drop taking Bellinger from among the game’s elite to one of MLB’s least productive hitters.
“It’s difficult. There’s no exact science to it,” Roberts said. “I think I’ve shown that I’ve supported him. I’ve given him a lot of leash because he’s earned it, and also I believe in the player, the talent, the person. I think I’ve been consistent with that.
“But in this particular moment, with all the information I have, with what I’ve seen recently, I had to make a difficult decision, and I feel that Chris Taylor deserves an opportunity to start two games in a row, and he’s done a lot of good things in the postseason for us as well. I feel that Trayce Thompson all year long versus right-handed pitching has been very consistent, and nothing has changed from what I’ve seen.”
The decision ultimately didn’t lead to a win as the Dodgers were eliminated after a 5-3 loss. Bellinger flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.
Bellinger finished the 2022 regular season hitting .210 over 504 at-bats with a .654 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Cody Bellinger, Trayce Thompson and Chris Taylor 2022 NLDS stats
In three NLDS games, Bellinger went 1-for-7 with a single.
Trayce Thompson ended up going 1-for-4 in Game 4 and finished his postseason hitting .154 in 13 at-bats over four games. Chris Taylor went 0-for-3 in the elimination loss and was 0-for-7 in two games during the NLDS.
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